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For many in GOP, returning abortion to the states isn’t enough

For many Republicans, the question isn’t whether to pursue a federal ban on abortion, but rather, how.


Almost immediately after Republican-appointed justices on the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, former Vice President Mike Pence issued a celebratory statement. This surprised no one: The Indiana Republican has long been a far-right crusader in the culture wars, so it stood to reason that he’d cheer the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

But as The New York Times noted, the former vice president — and likely national contender in the coming years — didn’t just applaud the developments. Pence also looked ahead to the next goal.

Mr. Pence ... called on abortion opponents to continue their work to ban abortion access in all states. “Having been given this second chance for Life, we must not rest and must not relent until the sanctity of life is restored to the center of American law in every state in the land,” he said.

At a Capitol Hill press conference on Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared, “Republicans are plotting a nationwide abortion ban.” This wasn’t hyperbole.

It was early last month when The Washington Post reported— coincidentally, the same day that Politico published its scoop on Justice Samuel Alito’s draft ruling, which ended up overshadowing the Post’s article — that conservative groups hoping to ban abortion have already met with their congressional allies about a possible “nationwide ban on the procedure if Republicans retake power in Washington.”

The discussions have reportedly advanced to such a stage that specific GOP senators have already sketched out policy details — they’re eyeing a six-week abortion ban — and who’ll be involved in drafting the legislative restrictions.

All of this, of course, was contingent on Republican-appointed justices playing their role and overturning Roe, which is precisely what’s happened.

It’s not as if conservatives will simply pat themselves on the back, pop the champagne, and exit the arena with a sense of contentment. The Dobbs ruling has emboldened the right and begun a new conversation about how best to build on a regressive foundation.

A HuffPost report added, “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for one, allowed that a national abortion ban was ‘possible‘ after the initial leak of the Supreme Court’s draft decision. Last week, Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) said he would back a federal ban because ‘any of us that believe this is wrong, it’s wrong, period.’”

Also on Friday afternoon, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told CNN he’s prepared to support a national 15-week abortion ban, which Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey is helping write. (Smith has previously worked on a 20-week ban, but he’s now moving his legislation even further to the right, now that he’s effectively received a green light from the high court.)

To be sure, other GOP officials will advocate for different policy details, but therein lies the point: For many Republicans, the question isn’t whether to pursue a federal ban on abortion, but rather, how.

The result is an election season question candidates aren’t accustomed to answering: “If a national abortion ban reaches the floor, how will you vote?”

There was some talk on Friday about the nation effectively dividing in two: In half the country, reproductive health care will remain largely intact, while in the other half, rights will disappear. For many Republicans, such a landscape simply isn’t good enough.